I suspect I am going to regret
Fri May 12, 15:56

wading into the middle of this contentiousness, but as I have in good faith been invited to do so, I shall do my best to play the mediating umpire, if not the know-it-all keeper of the peace. (Granted, I am unpardonably late to the party, but perhaps in this instance better late than never. I didn't notice the invite until just now.)

My first observation is that both posters, Mike and Joyce, strike me as equally committed to and passionate--obsessively so?--about their respective perspectives. So, if nothing else, they have that in common. They also, it seems to me, each in their own fashion, make legitimate points with respect to those perspectives. Finally, each can be faulted for what I want to characterize as an excess of zeal in defense of those perspectives which, all said, is perfectly understandable since passion of a certain deeply-invested sort oft-times foals such zeal.

(For some reason I am reminded of Barry Goldwater's 1964 declaration that, to paraphrase for our purposes here, extremism in the defense of the historical truth is no vice and moderation in pursuit of the same no virtue. Agree or disagree with the sentiment, it is commonly acknowledged that that rhetoric, along with the mushroom cloud/daisy girl ad, torpedoed what little chance AuH2O had to be elected president.)

So far so good, or just mealy-mouthed? Understand, I am searching for common, if not perfectly compatible or comportable ground here because I sense that both posters are posting what they are posting in good faith. To suggest otherwise would be not only insulting to them, but foreclose upon any possibility of mutual respect and understanding, if not accord.

Let's get down to cases. Mike believes that Joyce has a not-so-secret agenda. In academic historical circles agenda is a loaded word and it means exactly what Mike says it means. It's a selective culling of the facts--citing and foregrounding if not valorizing some while intentionally ignoring or downplaying or knowingly dismissing or omitting others--in order to fit or frame or buttress or bolster a pre-disposed or pre-determined outcome. Indeed, it is not going too far, in historian's terms, to call having an agenda a sin.

Mike, then, believes that Joyce has sinned against what might be called the historian's professional theology (or code of ethics) and it is that which accounts for the harshness of his tone in his criticism of her. Harsh, because to call someone ignorant, unethical and dishonest, biased and partisan, manipulative, regressive and suppressive, violative, insulting and toxic is prima facie harsh.

It is also personalizing. It is one thing, perfectly fair game to call out a poster's posts, especially by citing chapter and verse, specific point by point objections, it is altogether another to indict ad hominem that poster's character and intellectual capacity. If the latter was Mike's intent, even if he felt justified in his intentionality, I call foul.

That said, does Joyce really have an agenda? Well, she admits, to her credit, that she is biased. What does her bias consist of, and is that bias tantamount to having an agenda? Her bias, it strikes me, is two-pronged. The first amounts to her "siding" with the ranchers and Cowboys, not only trying to see events from or give equal time to their point of view, but mounting arguments in their defense because she believes, based in part upon certain insights gained and gathered from her own life experience, that they merit defending. The second, which is not unrelated to the first, amounts to her efforts to debunk what we might call the Earp Myth or mythology, particularly as it centers around the granular details of the gunfight, but also more generally.

Broadly speaking, both of these prongs strike me as legitimate concerns and I suspect that Mike would agree that they are indeed legitimate. His issue, as he remarks, has less to do with Joyce's "opposing perspective," which he says he welcomes viz. "bring on the opposing views," than with how Joyce goes about expressing and supporting that perspective. He believes that her methodology, so to say, in doing so is not only unprofessional, not only flawed, but so "regressive" as to render it "polluting" if not toxically damaging.

My own opinion is that such overheated rhetoric is unhelpfully hyperbolic at best--methinks thou dost protest too much--even if Mike's overall point is not bereft of merit, and it clearly is not. No one, including Joyce, is going to argue that "one-sided discussions offer no enlightenment" or that "ignorant bias is where enlightenment goes to die." Such statements are merely stating the self-apparently obvious, though I will grant that they bear repeating.

On the other hand, there is much to argue about when leveling the accusation that Joyce is actively engaged in "making efforts to suppress valid information." Suppress? Really? As in a one-woman crusade to censor any material that she disagrees with or does not comport with her perspective? I have encountered no evidence of that, none at all, nor can I imagine how in an open forum such as this one such a thing could be possible--how would one even go about doing that exactly?--though I would welcome examples that I may have missed.

Joyce can be criticized for being hyperbolic herself, for now and then stretching or skewing an interpretation of the facts, for unfounded speculation, for name-calling, even for getting stuff wrong--I have myself called her out about some of those things on occasions in the past--but suppressing information? Might want to rethink that one, even apologize.

Moreover, knowing Joyce a little, I suspect that she would have no bone to pick with being characterized as unprofessional or unacademic in the strict sense of those descriptors and would not gainsay that her methodology, insofar as she can be said to have one, can from a strictly scholarly perspective be considered somewhat flawed. She consistently has been the first to declare that she is not a professional historian, but a not entirely disinterested amateur (thus her opinion of the peer review process) and that what her so-called methodology amounts to is little more than posing ad hoc, often provocative Joycean questions, challenging conventional wisdoms, and submitting counter-arguments (some of them persuasive, many less so) to certain interpretations.

If that can be called an agenda, then yes, she has an agenda, but if it is an agenda, in my opinion, it is one that perhaps should be taken more seriously than some seem willing or able to do. You object to her agenda? Fair enough. Then refute it point by point rather than arguing that it is insulting or toxic or censorious or, precisely because it is an agenda, a waste of time to do so.

At last, on balance, in my estimation, despite her blind spots, her "unprofessional" posts have done more of a service than a dis-service to "the field." In her shining an often contrary light on certain often-overlooked aspects of this material she has prompted many of us to think and re-think those aspects, and, where our thinking has led us to disagree with or reject her perspective, which is often the case, agenda-driven or otherwise, no harm no foul. Much of it is merely food for thought, some of it nutritious, some of it unpalatable, but getting one's knickers in a knot about it, while understandable when coming at it from a certain angle, is in the context of this more-the-merrier forum, unnecessary.

If anyone is disposed to knot their knickers over "agenda-ism," and worse, much worse, in these matters, I would invite them to read any and every thing by and about Glenn Boyer. Therein reposes an unforgettable learning experience.

  • Any argument?Mike Mihaljevich, Wed May 03 9:29
    Let me clear the air. It is not the opposing perspective that I am against. One-sided discussions offer no enlightenment, but ignorant bias is also where enlightenment goes to die. What I AM against... more
    • I suspect I am going to regret — olds, Fri May 12 15:56
    • Re: Any argument?B.J., Sun May 07 11:07
      Mike, with all due respect Your statement: “The fact that those words come from a professor gives them no more credibility” Is a bit over the top? How do you rationalize away a perspective... more
      • Missed My MeaningMike Mihaljevich, Sun May 07 14:09
        It's not over the top because the statement isn't true. It doesn't matter if it came from a sidewalk propped or a person with a degree. Have you not lived long enough to know that a credential, a... more
        • Have you not lived long enough....B.J., Mon May 08 3:29
          Actually Mike, you might be right. LOL My daughter thinks it funny that at the tender age of 76 and having served two tours of duty during the vietnam war, recently full time retired after working... more
          • Tender age…Henrik63, Tue May 09 0:02
            B.J. You have my sincere respect for going “the academical way” aiming at another degree! Thank you for your service! Respectfully, Henrik
        • Re: Missed My MeaningB.J., Mon May 08 3:01
          Hey Mike, it occurred to me that maybe you and Joyce have a at least a few things in common. You both reject the history processes which I have learned during my graduate studies. Several times... more
    • Any argument should be...Joyce A. Aros, Thu May 04 16:51
      ...acceptable on a discussion board and that certainly seems to be the case here. But this poster, M & M, suggests that one-sided arguments, which offer no enlightenment in his view, might be the main,... more